Actor Armie Hammer, who grew up in Cayman, recently landed a role in the next Clint Eastwood-directed picture, J. Edgar, about the first director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
He’ll be starring as Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s FBI confidant, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role as J. Edgar Hoover.
“The papers have not been signed yet, but I’ve been doing the wardrobe and my first official makeup test, so everything is moving forward as planned,” he says.
He’s currently starring in The Social Network, the Golden Globe Best Picture winner, the movie about the founding of Facebook.
“I thought that after Social Network, I was like, man, I’m going to do a bunch of crappy movies after this, but now it’s like I get to work with Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio, so it’s an amazing opportunity,” he says.
Armie’s a little nervous, but he’s prepared.
“I can’t lie to you and say that I’m not nervous about it. But at the same time, I get that my only job in this situation is to show up 100 per cent prepared.”
Armie’s getting help in his preparation for the role by a famous acting teacher and casting director.
“Right now I’m studying with a woman named Deb Aquila,” he says. “She’s amazing. She’s sort of my guru who I go to for everything.”
Aquila says everything has to do with back story and research:
“It follows the Stella Adler process that I learned from her in script analysis, and I’ve sort of made it my own over the years. It’s what I use to cast films,” she says. “You break down each character and you create back stories for each character from the time they could pretty much remember, so that as you’re portraying these characters, the thoughts are theirs and the memories are theirs, not yours.”
Aquila says Armie took to the process immediately.
“He started really thriving on the research that is really necessary for the characters,” Aquila says. “That’s what’s so extraordinary about this young actor and this young man. He’s got the heart of a lion.”
The script, by Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar-winning writer of Milk, is amazing, Armie says. “I’ve been in the sort of studying and research phase right now and just reading the script over and over again, and every time I read it, it just gets better and better.”
Armie has to figure out the inner workings of Clyde Tolson, who worked closely with Hoover, and who some say had a romantic relationship with the longtime FBI chief.
“I might get a chance to go to an FBI field office and see how things work there and see how it goes,” he says. “There’s so much source material on J. Edgar, both factual and speculative, but at the same time, I’m not sure how much that helps me in my research.
The story spans the nearly 40 years Hoover was the head of the FBI and eventually became quite a controversial figure.
“This film is going to feel different in almost every way because I think the directors are extremely different in their styles,” he says. “(Fincher) will shoot 90 takes of something because, in his mind, there are 180 things that have to go right for a scene to work, and if only 170 of them actually go right, he’ll shoot it again.”
He says Clint Eastwood takes a different approach.
“He might not even tell you that the cameras are rolling and shoot a rehearsal and film that.”
Aquila believes that Armie will knock this performance out of the park.
“He mystifies me sometimes. He’s the sweetest, most respectful young man, and then he can turn on a dime and just lose himself inside the lines,” she says.
And he knows who he is, she says.
“He’s so self-possessed, he knows who he is, he knows what he wants and he’s going to get it,” Aquila says.
So what’s next after working with the great Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio? Directing? Producing?
“It is 100 per cent my plan. World domination is involved,” he jokes.
Do you remember Armie? If you went to school with him or hung out at the Blue Parrott with him, email [email protected]